A Tale of Two Presidents
- by Peter Todaro
Inside the story of two new college presidents, two Bon Appétit teams, and a lot of great food.
This fall, Bon Appétit teams at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, and Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania welcomed new presidents to their campuses.
Alums and trustees gathered, party tents arose, and two weeks and a thousand miles apart, a small army of Bon Appétiters at Carleton and Lafayette prepared sumptuous menus for the catering events and private dinners that were set to take place on their campuses. While these events warranted recognition on their own, it was what bound them together that made them even more special.
In the summer of 2021, Lafayette College’s outgoing president, Dr. Alison Byerly, announced that she would be joining Carleton College as the school’s 12th president. Lafayette, in turn, named Alison’s successor as Dr. Nicole Farmer Hurd, the former founding CEO of the nation’s largest college access program. Despite the geographic distance between the schools, as well as the notable difference in climate between Minnesota and Pennsylvania, the colleges are not dissimilar. Both share a foundational commitment to promoting sustainability, social justice, and a liberal arts curriculum. Both schools boast leading campus farm programs (read more about Carleton’s campus farm on our blog), and share Bon Appétit as their dining services provider.
As October neared, the Bon Appetit teams prepared for their inauguration weekend events, drawing ingredients from Farm to Fork vendors and repurposing staff across their campuses.
Capping a week of celebratory events, Dr. Nicole Farmer Hurd’s inauguration was held on Friday, October 1st, with the Bon Appétit team pulling out all the stops to create an incredible experience for the attendees of an inauguration luncheon, as well as an invitation-only “Marquis Founders Dinner,” a nod to Lafayette’s namesake, Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette. Executive Chef John Soder and the culinary team wowed guests with dishes like a bacon and potato Alsatian tart, a baby kale and heirloom carrot salad with black grapes, hazelnuts, and local honey vinaigrette, as well as a butternut squash cheesecake with burnt Italian meringue, maple syrup caviar, and vanilla tuile for dessert. “Our kitchens were the busiest I had ever seen them,” says General Manager Chris Brown. “I couldn’t be prouder of our team and thankful for the regional support we received, including the help of District Manager Yvonne Matteson and Regional Vice President Elaine Smart.” Dr. Byerly even made the trip back to Easton to speak at Dr. Hurd’s inauguration ceremony, and pose with her in front of Markle Hall, Lafayette’s administrative building.
At Carleton, the team nimbly executed a small private luncheon for Dr. Byerly and Carleton trustees, as well as a massive community picnic dinner for 2,500 people on Carleton’s quad, which is affectionately dubbed “The Bald Spot.” The team served up a variety of local entrées including pulled pork sliders, grilled chicken, and crispy tofu. The picnic was also zero-waste, with only compostable disposables used. “At Carleton we have a lot of different operations,” says Executive Chef Charlie Schwandt. “When we focus all of our energy on a singular event it’s fun to see what we can do.” After a celebratory bonfire with s’mores, festivities continued well into the evening. At 10:00pm, President Byerly and senior administrative staff got behind the line at East Dining Hall, serving students during Carleton’s time-honored midnight breakfast tradition.
For both Dr. Byerly and Dr. Hurd and the Bon Appétit teams that serve their respective schools, the inauguration events signaled the beginning of new partnerships, full of potential.